Web developer and self-proclaimed happiness evangelist François Beaufort has shared new video of a touch interface for Google’s Chrome browser currently in development. The video apparently demonstrates the interface running on a desktop computer, with a mouse cursor clicking the elements.
Some of the UI doesn’t look much different from the desktop Chrome browser, but the on-screen keyboard and widget buttons are more tablet-friendly. Beaufort sounds disappointed in the pace of development in his Google Plus post sharing the screencast. “This morning, I was wondering if Google Chrome Team worked a little bit more on the Touch UI during my holidays,” he writes. “Answer is not so much sadly.”
The video fuels more speculation about the development of the browser-based Chrome Operating System for tablets. Google hasn’t been forthcoming about this work, maintaining at Google I/O this May that Chrome’s development is “100 percent focused on laptops” and that the team has “no plans on any other form factors.” But as we reported in April, Google has admitted that it is, at least, “engaging in early open-source work for the tablet form factor” with Chrome OS.
We’ve seen multiple reports of tablets and tablet-like devices rumored to be made for Chrome OS, and Google has released its own mock-ups of Chrome tablets. But it’s not clear what market Google would try to serve with them, especially since, presumably, they would be competing with Google’s own existing tablet OS. Google’s Android OS has already been commercially released for tablets, although developers seem to be losing momentum, and sales aren’t great. Google’s efforts to develop two operating systems simultaneously might be a way of hedging its bets or creating healthy competition within the company.
A Google mock-up of a Chrome OS tablet
Publicly, Google has positioned Chrome OS as a replacement for the desktop environment, but it has always been shown as a hardware-software package that looks like a traditional laptop. Instead of a desktop and a filesystem, a Chromebook has a Web browser, and all the applications are Web-based, just like Gmail and Google Docs already are. But that’s all you get. Our experiences trying out Chrome OS have been frustrating; being confined to the Web on a laptop feels limiting. Given these reactions (and we’re notalone), it’s not surprising that Chromebooks haven’t hit the mass market yet. But tablet users accept the limitations in the nature of the device. Perhaps some Google developers believe tablets will be a better fit for Chrome OS.